The Mountain People


Easter persists in gathering us: a dozen families
whose fathers were 2nd Brighton Sea Scouts,
we come together beside a mountain or the sea,
in some lodge at the dusty end of a long windy road.

I arrive forgetting everyone’s name again
but holding their precious faces in my blood:
this is my extended family and for four days
we only see the best of each other.

Stories are told of children absent in Europe,
a recent hip replacement, next year’s venue
and of course the quality of the food. We smile
as the latest sports car drives away the wrinkles.

At least once there’s a day’s walk across hills
or along the beach; upon returning generous alcohol
rubs away years of distance between
old friends and the merest of acquaintances.

Every day begins holding a brisk morning.
The ground defrosts to the smell
of bacon and eggs, tomatoes and juice:
the perfect hangover breakfast.

Every year becomes a handful of memories
and photos you search to see where you fitted in,
but they don’t capture the silence of the cold,
the hush of rain falling in an empty forest.

The greatest moment is just to sit beside
a river shivering like a quilt of light
and feel what must be your soul
return to its home within your skin.

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